Feb. 17 1999 3:30 AM

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William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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2/15/99 The Senate acquits President Clinton 55-45 on perjury and 50-50 on obstruction of justice, well short of the two-thirds vote required. Democrats vote unanimously for acquittal, joined by 10 Republicans on perjury and five on obstruction. Censure fails on a procedural motion, so Democrats and several Republicans sign an unofficial censure statement instead. Clinton says he's "profoundly sorry ... for what I said and did to trigger these events." Reporters sniff for signs of celebration at the White House but come up empty. Senators congratulate themselves for conscience, bipartisanship, and fidelity to the Constitution. Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the chief House prosecutor, urges Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to drop the idea of indicting Clinton. Polls indicate that the public supports the verdict and wants to move on.

Chance of removal from office: Zero.

2/12/99 Amid expectations that neither impeachment article will get majority support in the Senate, both sides gear up for the aftermath. Everyone agrees censure is doomed. Thursday's New York Times leak: Clinton is furious at House Republicans for impeaching him and is determined to drive them from office. Friday's Times leak: Clinton is furious at the "advisers" who leaked that story before the Senate vote and is determined to drive them from office. Zero

2/10/99 Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott aims for a final vote by 5 p.m. Thursday. The suspense is over how many Republicans will vote no on the obstruction of justice article. Sens. John Chafee, R-R.I.; James Jeffords, R-Vt.; and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., say they'll vote no. Meanwhile, Republicans turn against censure, accusing its Democratic backers of "seeking cover" for voting to acquit President Clinton. Zero

2/9/99 The Senate begins final deliberations after voting to close the deliberations to outsiders. The idealistic spin: Kicking out the media will allow senators to reach their verdict based on reason and conscience. The cynical spin: Democrats voted to open the deliberations and Republicans voted to close them because both sides know Democrats are on the politically popular side of the debate. Facing the certainty of Clinton's acquittal, a few more Senate Republicans concede they could vote for censure. Zero

(For earlier entries and the Clintometer Uncertainty Principle, click here.)

--William Saletan

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